Football fans finally returned to the Chinese Super League to witness Shanghai SIPG to beat Beijing Guoan in Suzhou.
It was the first time spectators were allowed in since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fans from both clubs were among 2,000 allowed, and 1,588 turned the turnstiles, with the journey much easier for those from Shanghai, just 100km to the east, than Beijing, some 1,100km to the north.
Still, it’s not a breeze.
Strict social distancing measures were in place inside the stadium. Fans had to observe the one metre gap, and all those attending had to wear a face mask, show an ID card, undergo a temperature check, and display a green health code on their phone.
On top of that, those not residing in the host city of Suzhou were required to provide a certificate proving they had passed a Covid-19 test within the last seven days.
“It takes a certain type of person to decide late on Wednesday night, because the tickets became available at 9.30pm on Wednesday, that they are going to travel to Suzhou for the weekend,” Beijing Guoan fan Brandon Chemers said after the match.
There were 300 tickets made available on the WeChat platform used for all away games. “There really wasn’t that high a demand,” Chemers said, though most of the tickets were sold.
“There were around 250 or so fans from Beijing that travelled to Suzhou. Some of them from nearby but mostly coming directly from Beijing.”
There was a heavy police presence, although “not over the top” and comparable to a usual away game but they could have done with more.
The Chinese Football Association said it would allow spectators into four more games in the coming weeks. If its Covid-19 measures work, all games will gradually re-open to the public.
To ensure health and safety, a new CSL format was introduced and the 16 teams were split into two groups, with all games being hosted at neutral venues in Suzhou and Dalian.